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Shaw Sails To Haunted Hundred Victory, Locks Up Second Straight ACT Tour Title

The defending ACT Tour titlist entered the season finale second in points, but had exactly the night he needed to clinch his second straight ACT Tour crown.

D.J. Shaw spins through the frontstretch grass, celebrating his second consecutive ACT Tour championship for car owner Arnie Hill. (STS/Jeff Brown)

A win in Sunday evening’s American-Canadian Tour Haunted Hundred could not guarantee D.J. Shaw a championship. But if the veteran racer wanted to go back-to-back, a win was a solid start.

So he went out and got one.

Shaw climbs from his car, victorious in both the night’s battle and the season-long war. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Shaw outdueled Alexendre Tardif under the lights at New London-Waterford Speedbowl to score his second ACT Tour win of 2023 in the season finale. And with last-lap trouble for challenger Gabe Brown, Shaw could double up on his celebration.

Shaw took home not only his sixth career ACT Tour checkered flag, but the $10,000 ACT Tour championship and the $2,000 Brookside Equipment Southern New England Triple Crown as well.

It was a big night for Shaw, and the end of a frustrating weekend for Brown.

“We couldn’t have had a better day, really,” Shaw said in victory lane. “It’s so bittersweet to beat Gabe here … We had a hell of a year, both of us. We had the perfect day today and that’s exactly what we needed.

Sunday’s race, a double-bill with the Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series, was unable to dodge the deluge of rainy weather all summer, having been bumped from its original Saturday date. But the rescheduled race did not impact the turnout, with a season-record 49 cars vying for space in the 31-car starting field.

But all eyes were on Shaw and Brown. The two Center Conway, N.H. combatants entered the final weekend of the season separated by 21 points, with Brown, the student, leading the mentor Shaw. A week before, Brown shoved Shaw aside late in the going to win the Pro All Stars Series season finale, setting the stage for a tough-but-fair title battle between the two friends and corporate teammates.

Brown took the long path to the starting grid, and only made it six laps before bringing out the day’s first caution. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Brown’s challenges began far from the track. A karting accident Saturday night hobbled the young racer, consigning him to crutches on race day. A poor heat draw forced Brown to the consi and ultimately the B-feature. Brown won the B-feature, but would start at the tail of a strong field with Shaw far closer to the front.

And Brown’s struggles only grew as he went around in turn two six laps into the race, bringing out the night’s first caution.

Polesitter Nick Cusack was stout at the front of the field, putting the Dale Shaw Race Cars “house car” through its paces in his ACT Tour debut. Erick Sands climbed to second, but Cusack was firmly in control.

As the leaders closed in on slower traffic, the caution waved on lap 33 for Jacob “Rowdy” Burns’ spin. Brown had cracked the top twenty, but pulled off the track for a quick adjustment under yellow. Shaw was already fourth, pressuring Kasey Beattie for third.

Nick Cusack and Zackary Fauteux lead the 31-car field to green in Sunday’s ACT Tour Haunted Hundred. Cusack, making his ACT debut, led the first 35 laps in the Dale Shaw Race Cars house car. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Sands, who finished third in last year’s ACT Tour season finale at the Speedbowl, took charge on a lap-36 restart, leaving Cusack to fend off his boss for the evening. Sands could not escape, though, as contact with Jesse Switser sent Joey Polewarczyk for a hard ride into the turn-two wall on lap 42.

A rash of yellow flags in the next few laps eliminated rookie Bryan Wall, Jr. and prompted race officials to shift to single-file restarts for the rest of the night. Sands’ lead defense became slightly easier as Cusack and Shaw were content to ride for the moment. Brown, still trying to make up ground on Shaw, was up to 14th when the yellow flew again on lap 55.

The restart was a scramble, with Brooks Clark leading Shaw past Cusack for second and Shaw surging past Clark into the runner-up slot. Andrew Molleur’s tough homecoming got worse on lap 59, with the rookie spinning on the frontstretch to bring out another caution flag.

Sands led the field to green once again, but his car gave up the ghost as the field powered into turn one. Sands pulled high and coasted to a stop just outside turn two, his bid for victory over with forty circuits remaining on the scoreboard.

Shaw inherited the lead, putting the defending champion in position to maximize his points gain over Brown. Shaw took off from Clark on the start, but only two laps later, Connor Souza and Burns made contact in turn four to draw the caution another time. Officials sent both cars to the pits for the evening, re-racking the field for a restart with 38 laps left.

Now out in front, Shaw looked positively dominant, driving away from the battle for second just as it began to heat up. Tardif restarted fourth, but blew by Cusack and Clark and carved time off Shaw’s lead.

With twenty laps to go, Tardif was on Shaw’s bumper. A few laps later, he was peeking to Shaw’s inside looking for a lane. Tardif drew alongside Shaw, inching ever closer to the lead, but Shaw held firm on the outside to retain the lead.

Defending Speedbowl winner Derek Gluchacki was racing Beattie for position when the two got together, collecting Tom Carey III and stacking up the three contenders in turn four. The yellow flew with six laps to go, putting the thriller of a lead battle on hold for a few minutes. Brown, who had been just outside the top ten for the final half of the race, found himself securely in the top ten and not quite out of title contention.

Tardif raced Shaw hard but clean, passing on multiple opportunities to rough up the race leader. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Tardif went after Shaw on the restart, once again taking the short way around as Shaw held steady on the outside. But in the final six laps, “Fireball” could get no closer than Shaw’s door to tasting the lead for himself.

Winless on the Tour since May’s visit to Stafford Motor Speedway, Shaw prevailed to win his second ACT Tour race of the year and his first ever victory at the Speedbowl.

Tardif, making only his seventh Tour start of 2023 after running the full schedule last year, came away with his best finish of the season. Early leader Cusack rebounded to third at the finish, while Clark finished fourth. Midsummer Classic 250 winner Switser was fifth at the line.

Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. was a solid sixth, with Carey bringing his damaged car home seventh.

Brown crossed the line eighth, but the final position came at the expense of Ryan Morgan, who Brown sent for a spin on the final lap after a dogfight in the closing circuits. Officials swiftly penalized Brown, scoring him eighteenth for intentional contact. Maxime Gaudreau was credited with eighth, and rookies Tanner Woodard and Davey Riendeau rounded out the top ten.

Jesse Switser (#25NH) and Alexendre Tardif (#21QC) make their way through the field en route to top-five finishes. (STS/Jeff Brown)

With Brown’s penalty, Shaw could officially celebrate not only the win, but his second straight ACT Tour championship.

Shaw celebrates his second straight championship for car owner Arnie Hill. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Shaw’s title was also a second for car owner Arnie Hill, who prepares both Shaw’s ACT Tour entry and a weekly Late Model at Thunder Road International Speedbowl for Justin Prescott, the stepson of ACT all-star Brian Hoar. Shaw joined the Hill team one race into the 2020 season, assisting Hill as he made the leap to the Tour full-time.

Since pairing up with Hill, Shaw has delivered the team two runner-up points finishes, two ACT Tour titles, six feature Tour wins and a non-points victory earlier this year at Hickory Motor Speedway.

Shaw’s early-season win at Stafford also secured him the Brookside Equipment Southern New England Triple Crown, with wins in two of the three events.

Shaw’s title drive extends an impressive personal streak for the veteran, who has won a championship each year for the past six years. The five-time Pro All Stars Series North titlist won three straight PASS crowns in 2018, 2019 and 2020, then captured the PASS New England North “loyalty bonus” championship in 2021.

Last year’s ACT Tour battle was essentially over at mid-season, though, when chief contender Derek Gluchacki was unable to make either of the year’s trips to Canada. Shaw was one of three drivers who started every race, winning the title handily over Tardif, Gluchacki and Sands.

Not to be forgotten, Tanner Woodard earned the season’s Rookie of the Year honors over local favorite Andrew Molleur and Woodard’s friend Bryan Wall, Jr. (STS/Jeff Brown)

This year, Shaw had no such luxury. Nine drivers attempted all 13 races, with six starting all of them. Dale Shaw Race Cars teammates Brown and Renfrew were close all year, tying Shaw in wins with one a piece. Gluchacki had a pair of checkered flags, but terminal post-qualifying damage in September’s Labor Day Classic at Thunder Road ended any hopes of a rally.

What kept Shaw in contention all year was his trademark consistency. Shaw and Brown completed every lap this season, but for the second straight year, Shaw finished every ACT Tour race in the top ten.

In fact, Sunday’s race was Shaw’s 37th straight top-ten performance in ACT Tour competition, a mindboggling streak of success and fortune.

Shaw’s last finish outside the top ten was a podium result in the 2021 season opener at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, negated by a technical infraction. If not for that blemish, Shaw would have top ten finishes in every ACT Tour points race since the start of 2020.

It’s an impressive body of work for a driver who only had six ACT Tour starts prior to 2020, having largely bypassed the Tour on his way from weekly competition to PASS Super Late Models.

After all, with its differences from Super and Pro Late Models, the ACT Tour platform has largely been its own entity with its own base of talent for several years. Drivers have made the move to chase new opportunities in PASS, but the series are hardly rungs on a ladder, with drivers like Hoar, Jean Paul Cyr and Patrick Laperle building careers under the ACT umbrella.

However, the last three Tour championships have fallen to drivers who added the ACT Tour to their repertoire after years of Super Late Model success.

And if Shaw fell short this year, it would have been to Brown, whose career has taken a similar path to Shaw’s with far fewer years in between.

If Shaw and Brown return full-time in 2024, the bar for the rest of the field will only be that much higher.

Unofficial Results
American-Canadian Tour Haunted Hundred
New London-Waterford Speedbowl

1. (04VT) D.J. Shaw
2. (21QC) Alexendre Tardif
3. (49CT) Nick Cusack
4. (68VT) Brooks Clark
5. (25NH) Jesse Switser
6. (00NH) Jimmy Renfrew, Jr.
7. (5MA) Tom Carey III
8. (17QC) Maxime Gauvreau
9. (68NH) Tanner Woodard
10. (7NC) Davey Riendeau
11. (0NH) Brandon Barker
12. (97NH) Joey Polewarczyk
13. (41QC) Jonathan Bouvrette
14. (45NH) Kasey Beattie
15. (35CT) Ryan Morgan
16. (90QC) Zackary Fauteux
17. (03MA) Derek Gluchacki
18. (60ME) Gabe Brown
19. (31CT) Andrew Molleur
20. (31CS) Brody Monahan
21. (76RI) Tyler Tomassi
22. (27NH) Cam Huntress
23. (36NH) Erick Sands
24. (37CT) Jordan Hadley
25. (77NH) Bryan Wall, Jr.
26. (1CT) Corey Fanning
27. (47NH) Brockton Davis
28. (88MA) Woody Pitkat
29. (66VT) Jason Corliss
30. (38RI) Connor Souza
31. (30RI) Jacob “Rowdy” Burns

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Jeff Brown is a contributor to Short Track Scene. A native of New Hampshire and a long-time fan of New England racing, Brown provides a fan's perspective as he follows New England's regional Late Model touring series.

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